The Piledriver Report 4.17.14: A Look Back at WrestleMania XXX
Posted by Ronny Sarnecky on 04.17.2014
Every year since 1985, the biggest story in late March-early April happens to be the fallout from WrestleMania. With the 30th WrestleMania taking place on April 6th, that trend seemed destined to continue. Unfortunately, two days after WrestleMania XXX, the Ultimate Warrior shockingly passed away. All of the attention by the middle part of the week shifted to the Ultimate Warrior, and rightfully so. Following it’s huge look back last week at the legacy of the Ultimate Warrior, The Piledriver Report now examines last week’s WrestleMania extravaganza.
One legend falls, one legend begins. On Sunday April 6th, the WWE presented one of the most memorable WrestleMania events in the company's history. Was it the best WrestleMania? No. That distinction still belongs to WrestleMania X-Seven. There were some really good matches on the show, but nothing great. However, when it comes to being a WrestleMania that you will never forget, the 30th edition certainly delivered.
Like WrestleMania XXVII, this WrestleMania opened up with the host of the show addressing the crowd. When Hulk Hogan made his way to the ring as "Real American" played throughout the stadium, it felt like a big moment. Hulk Hogan spent almost as much time in World Championship Wrestling as he did in his most famous run in the World Wrestling Federation. However, it just seems like Hogan is where he should be whenever he returns to the WWE.
As great as it was to see Hulk Hogan back in a WWE ring at WrestleMania, nothing was better than when he called the Superdome the Silverdome instead. It was a small gaffe that actually helped the segment. As Hogan recovered from his error, the sound of glass breaking echoed throughout the building. Steve Austin made his way to the ring, and got a nice dig on Hogan by mockingly calling the Superdome the Silverdome. It was a great moment to see arguably the two greatest stars in the WWE's history standing nose to nose. Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan is the dream match that never was. I was on the edge of my seat watching two masters at work. Just when you thought the segment couldn't get any better, out comes The Rock. Like Steve Austin before him, The Rock also got a Silverdome dig in on the Hulkster. It was such a surreal moment to see the three icons in the ring at the same time. You had the three top wrestlers of the WrestleMania era all in the ring together. It was perfect. The only thing that would have made the segment even more magical is if they had Bruno Sammartino in the ring with them. After all, Bruno was the first face of the company. Even without Sammartino, the segment was awesome. I'm not a fan of twenty minute monologues on pay per views. I want to see wrestling on pay per views, and not talking. However, seeing Hogan, Austin, and The Rock in the ring at the same time, I didn't care that they were talking for twenty minutes. You were seeing three fourths of the WWE's Mount Rushmore. It was a historical moment, and I was enjoying every minute of it.
When the WWE first announced an Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal, I didn't think much of it. After all, aside from the Royal Rumble, most battle royals are boring clusters. At one time in wrestling history, a battle royal was a huge event that drew big crowds. Today, a battle royal is just a way to get everybody on the show. Unlike most of the recent battle royals, this battle royal was pretty good. Kofi Kingston continues to amaze at his near elimination saves. This time, his entire body, except his feet hit the ground. Amazing. Kofi Kingston is to battle royals as Shelton Benjamin was to Money in the Bank ladder matches. You never know what he is going to pull off. You just know it's going to be incredible. As fantastic as Kingston's "save" was, it wasn't even the best spot in the match. That was saved for the finish. Cesaro, in an ode to the Hogan/Andre WrestleMania III bodyslam spot, lifted up the Big Show, and threw him over the top rope. However, what made the spot great is that Cesaro scooped the Big Show up in a bodyslam motion, carried him a couple of steps, and then dumped the Big Show over the top rope for the win. Cesaro is one strong guy, and with each new strong man feet, he amazes me more and more. What made Cesaro's battle royal triumph even more memorable is that it looks like this is just a stepping stone of things to come. First, the battle royal win, followed by Paul Heyman being put on as his manager. Is a run at the WWE title in his future? Stay tuned.
21 and 1!!!!! I never thought that I would ever see that graphic displayed after the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar match. However, unlike most wrestling fans, I am glad. I always thought that the WWE should break the streak. After all, the best part of a streak is seeing it end. Don't believe me? The New England Patriots. Mike Tyson. Bruno Sammartino. Each of these teams/men have one thing in common. They all had legendary streaks where they were unbeatable. In 2007, the New England Patriots had a record setting season. Their offense put together one of the all-time legendary seasons as they were on their way to a 19-0 season heading into Super Bowl XLII. Heading into the game, the Patriots were 12 point favorites against the New York Giants. The biggest lead in the game was only a four point cushion, which New England enjoyed on two separate occasions. The lead wasn't good enough, because in the end, the New York Giants raised the Vince Lombardi trophy, while the Patriots ended the season with 18 wins, and one giant loss. Mike Tyson fought for over five years, and accumulated 37 consecutive wins before suffering one of the most shocking losses in boxing history in his title loss to 42-1 underdog Buster Douglass. As dominant as both the Patriots and Mike Tyson were during their runs, I don't remember most of their games/fights that they won during their streaks. However, I can tell you exactly where I was when their streaks came to an end. Bruno Sammartino held the WWWF World title for nearly eight years during his first title reign. I wasn't yet born when he dropped the belt to Ivan Koloff, so I will never have that "I was in x place when Bruno lost the belt" memory. However, I'm sure if you ask any wrestling fan from back then where they were when they heard or saw Bruno's dropped the belt, they can all probably tell you without having to give it much thought.
My point is that no matter how great their reigns were, their most famous game, fight, and match was the one where they finally lost. OK, with Tyson you could probably include his two fights with Evander Holyfield as being forever etched in your mind, but that's because the first one was a dream match, and in the second, he bit Evander's ear off! You get my point though. As irate and stunned as you might have been at the Undertaker's streak ending, years from now, you will remember exactly where you were when the Undertaker went 21-1.
Following WrestleMania XXX, I scoured message boards to gauge the fans reaction to the show. Most fans were not as upset that the Undertaker lost the streak. Instead, they were more upset over WHO broke the streak. For the longest time, I was of the mindset that if the WWE ever had someone beat the streak, it needed to be someone that was young, and that the WWE was going to strap a rocket on to become the new "face of the company."
Ever since the WWE had Brock Lesnar break the streak, I must admit that I was wrong. Brock Lesnar was the PERFECT person to break the streak. Here's my reasoning for my change of heart. Let's say a young, up and coming wrestler broke the streak. To a lot of fans, the streak was sacred. The fans may have turned on this wrestler, feeling that a young, up and comer wasn't in the Undertaker's league. They could have easily turned on this young wrestler, thus killing any momentum he had, and perhaps ruining what could be a stellar career.
Another risk in giving the honor to a younger wrestler is what if he leaves? The WWE, besides signing a lot of "wrestlers" to their developmental territory, also sign a lot of guys because they have a certain look. What happens if the WWE were to give the win to one of these guys who are there for a pay check and not because they love the business, then a year later this guy decides to move on to bigger and better things? Then, you just wasted the streak on someone undeserving. A perfect example would be Bobby Lashley. The WWE believed that he would be their next Brock Lesnar. If they would have given him the victory, it would have been wasted.
Wait a second!!!!! I can hear it now! Didn't Brock Lesnar do the same thing? He ran through the WWE, and then left after a couple of years to try to make it in the NFL! That's true, and that's why giving a young Brock Lesnar the victory would have been a risk. However, giving today's Brock Lesnar the victory makes sense. Let me explain.
If there is a fan backlash over Brock Lesnar, that's fine. First off, Brock is over enough as a big time star that any fans who are upset that he beat the Undertaker can't complain too much. After all, he's a former NCAA, WWE, and UFC champion. He has the credentials. Lesnar's career will not take a nose dive because a few fans boo him. Instead, it will enhance his character.
The other argument is that he's a part timer. Sure, he works a limited schedule, but it's not like he's The Rock. Since The Rock returned to the WWE before WrestleMania XXVII, he has participated in five matches. In those five matches, he fought John Cena and CM Punk in four of those contests, where he lost only once (not that he should be jobber boy). In contrast, Brock Lesnar has wrestled seven times with five different opponents where he lost twice, and has been back a year less than The Rock.
Would it have been better if the Undertaker lost to someone like John Cena? Most fans feel the WWE forces Cena down our throats. A Cena victory over Taker would not help with that perception. What about if he lost last year to CM Punk? At the time, I think that would have gone over well. However, fast forward a year, and where is CM Punk now? Gone from the WWE (although, I think he'll be back in time for WrestleMania XXXI). The only wrestler who I think would satisfy both criteria of being an up and comer, but yet still in the Undertaker's league would be Daniel Bryan. However, he had other things to take care of that night.
Ever since SummerSlam 2013, I had a bad feeling that the WWE would drop the ball with Daniel Bryan. Even though he deserved to be in the main event of WrestleMania XXX, I never expected to see him there. I just didn't trust the WWE to pull the trigger. If CM Punk didn't leave, or the fans didn't turn on Batista, Bryan would have never been near the main event. Instead, we would have gotten Sheamus vs. Bryan III. Not that there match would have been bad, but Daniel Bryan is too far above the Sheamus' of the world to be in that kind of match at WrestleMania. Based on the intial storyline, I felt that Bryan needed to fight Triple H somewhere along his road to the title. The WWE did the right and smart thing by having them fight at WrestleMania with the winner moving on to the WWE World title main event.
While I enjoyed the Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan match, as I thought it was the match of the night, I would have made one small change. I would have put that match on right before the main event. If Bryan had to work back to back matches where he had to battle a total of three men in just under an hour time frame, it would have made his quest that much more dramatic, and enjoyable. Instead, Bryan had the opening match of the main card and the closing match of the show. Pretty good for a B+ player.
I'm really happy that the WWE is giving Bryan a chance to have a legitimate run with the WWE title. Even though we are only 10 days into his title reign, so far the WWE is treating Bryan as a real champion, and not like they did when Rey Mysterio had the belt put on him. Now that Bryan has the title, the big question is when will he drop the belt? If I were to guess, I would say that he holds it until SummerSlam where he drops the title to Brock Lesnar. However, I would give him a year title reign, and have him lose the belt at WrestleMania XXXI. This was, Bryan will be given a legitimate chance to succeed as champion. Who would I have him lose the belt to at Mania XXXI? Well, my dream main event WrestleMania match since before WrestleMania XXVII has been Bryan vs. CM Punk in a 45-50 minute battle. Why change now? Do I think it will happen? No. I still think Bryan goes until SummerSlam, or at the latest, the Royal Rumble as champion. If it's the latter, that means that the WWE really got behind Daniel Bryan as a main event champion. There would be one word to describe the fans feelings if that was the case. That word would be "YES!"